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Mail: 4620 Sawbill Trail
Box 2129
Tofte, MN 55615

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Sawbill Newsletter Archives: April 2009
Current Sawbill Newsletter | « March 2009 | May 2009 »

4/30/09 - The ice on Sawbill Lake now stands at 20" thick after a hard rain last night. - Bill

Another sure sign of spring is the arrival of new Kevlar canoes from their home in southern Wisconsin. This load of 12 beautiful Bell Seligas arrived last night. The Wenonah and Souris River canoes are not far behind.

Nash drills on a wet, foggy Sawbill Lake.

The early afternoon view from the canoe landing looking south toward Sawbill Creek.

Homer likes to eat chunks of ice that he finds floating in the "moat" of open water near the landing.

Lake ice is such an interesting, beautiful, complex phenomenon. These patterns appeared today, presumably the result of the overnight rain.

4/28/09 - Here is today's ice picture and thickness measurement. - Bill

The ice measured 22" today. I stuck my arm down the hole to check on the ice quality. The top 14" is not real solid, but the bottom 8" is solid, clear ice.

4/24/09 - Things are gradually melting here. We still have at least of foot of snow on the ground, although it's to the point where it is two feet deep in some places and bare ground in others. Our official snow depth gauge is down to one inch this morning. - Bill

The ice sheet on Sawbill Lake has "floated up" which means that it has detached from the shore and is actually floating on the surface of the lake. It makes an 18" deep moat around the shore, forcing us to use a canoe to get out on the ice without getting our feet wet.

Veteran Sawbill crew member Pat Nash watches new guy Dan Shirley drill the test hole while Roy checks out the old hole.

Nash takes over for the last few turns before the auger breaks through 22.5 inches of ice.

Given the condition of the ice and the weather forecast, ice-out should be in about 10 - 14 days. But, it is totally weather dependent, so anything can happen.

4/20/09 - Dan Walch was kind enough to send some great pictures he took during a camping trip to the Baker Lake area just after the big snowstorm two weeks ago. Since then, we've had a lot of melting, followed by more snow. - Bill

A wolf alongside the road. Dan Walsh photo.

A spruce grouse hides in a thicket. Dan Walsh photo.

Open water at beginning of April. Although there are many more open spots now, it will be awhile before the ice is gone. Dan Walsh photo.

4/19/09 - After a couple of days of summer-like weather, today is 33 degrees and snowing. We measured the lake ice this morning and it is 28" thick. Only about a foot of it is really solid though. The top layer is still fairly solid, but clearly degraded.

Our newest Sawbill crew member, Dan Shirley, on the business end of the ice auger. Dan hails from Santa Fe, recently returned from spending his senior year in Chile and is graduating with a degree in chemistry from the University of Montana this spring. Welcome Dan!

4/15/09 - The big metal roof on our outfitting/store building has produced a new phenomenon we call a "roof glacier." I'm not sure I want to be around when it finally lets go. - Bill

The Sawbill roof glacier is creeping forward at a rate of about 6" per day.

4/13/09 - According to the official snow gauge we have 16" of snow on the ground. The lakes remain solid enough for skiing, although temperatures in the next few days are predicted to be in the 50s for the first time since early November. I had a clue that ski season was coming to a close when a vulture started circling me during this morning's ski. - Bill

The south end of Alton Lake as viewed from the Beth to Alton portage, 6:00 pm, April 13th.

Seeing the tracks of this wolf are a daily occurrence around here.

4/13/09 - We've witnessed many signs of spring over the Easter weekend. The first evening grosbeak at the bird feeder, first red-winged blackbird, first chipmunk, first snow buntings and first cow bird. Cindy saw a "pathetic" gaggle of geese fly over Sawbill yesterday, circle uncertainly and head back south. The rivers are starting to open although the lakes are still white and tight. - Bill

4/11/09 - I had a wonderful lake ski this morning. The lakes are quite smooth and hard, as if they have been paved with sparkly white pavement. As the sun starts working on the snow it softens just enough to get a ski edge in for a good skating stride. The sky was flawlessly blue with just a whisper of a southerly breeze.

I skied up Sawbill, Alton and Kelso to Lujenida Lake. The large fen between Kelso and Lujenida was firm enough to hold me up, so I explored some large open areas to the east along the Kelso River that are inaccessible by canoe.

I saw fresh tracks of wolf, moose and otter. The only sign of humans were some old ski and toboggan tracks. When these old tracks remain after some serious freeze and thaw cycles, they end up creating a raised track about 3" high and 24" wide. For skate skiing, it provides a serious advantage. You can lift each ski to the top and let it glide down the sides, giving the illusion that you are constantly skiing slightly down hill. - Bill

4/9/2009 - On our way home last night, Cindy and I were delighted to come upon two moose standing in the Sawbill Trail. As we coasted to a stop, another moose popped out of the woods - then another and another. Five moose in a single group! The moose population has declined in the last few years and we have been seeing fewer moose on the road, so it was fun to see so many at once. They all looked healthy and alert.

This hastily snapped photo from a moving car documents five moose in a herd or a family of sasquatch.

We were still talking about the moose as we crested the last hill before arriving at Sawbill. We saw an animal emerge from the west side of the road and saunter across into our driveway. We were surprised to see that it was a beautiful lynx!

When we got in the house, we peered out the window, trying to see the lynx again. No sign of the lynx, but there was a large pine marten on the bird feeder.

Lake Superior was nearly frozen over for awhile this winter. The satellite photo below shows that most of the lake is now ice free. High winds have compressed and concentrated the ice which now travels around depending on wind direction. The photo also nicely shows the edge of the snow pack. We still have 21" on the ground here. - Bill

Can you spot Sawbill Lake?

4/6/09 - Winter is still in full force here at Sawbill. Several days ago we had another big snowfall. Hard to say how much it was, because the winds were so high that measuring wasn't very accurate. Probably 16" of more though, from the look of it. Don't be alarmed about early season canoeing. This can all melt fast if the temperatures go up. -Bill

This is the picnic table in front of the store that we use as our unofficial snow depth indicator. We're calling it "buried" right now. the official snow depth gauge is reading 26".

Last week's ice storm left a notable icicle on the store building.

Homer climbs out of a hole created by a air vent.

The little dogs can stay on top of the crusted snow, which is making the red squirrels nervous. Lake skiing should be good while the temperatures are going well below freezing at night.

Sawbill Outfitters, buried in April.

Our snowman either has a drinking problem or is feeling the effects of the spring sun.

Current Sawbill Newsletter | « March 2009 | May 2009 »

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